By Chris “Boogie” Brown
“Black Adam” is the long awaited cinematic debut of one of the most powerful & underrated characters in the pantheon of DC Comic Lore. Playing the lead role of this menacing Antihero is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the former Professional Wrestling Superstar turned Hollywood Megastar. This film has been a passion project for Johnson who has been attached to it for over a decade now. So finally, after years of waiting, many false starts, and release delays due to Covid, the cinematic arrival of Black Adam is finally here!
In 2600 BC in the fictional Middle Eastern country of Kahndaq, we’re told the story of “Teth Adam”, a young slave that rose up to challenge a King who kept the people of Kahndaq in bondage. After this prologue, we are transported to modern day Kahndaq, where a group of evil mercenaries known as “Intergang” have taken over and placed citizens under their authority. A resistance fighter is introduced named Sarah who is tracking down an ancient relic that will help free and liberate the people of Kahndaq from the tyrannical rule of Intergang. Upon retrieving this item, events lead to her summoning Teth Adam from his dormant state.
However, Teth Adam is no longer a boy, but now a Super-Powered being that is ready, willing and able to stop anything and anyone from harming the city of Kahndaq or its people. Because of his powers and abilities, Teth Adam is viewed as a major threat to Earth’s safety which forces the JSA, a group of super powered protectors, to come to Kahndaq to capture him – which is easier said than done. When these two sides collide, confrontation ensues and brings about debate as to what characteristics truly make up the word “Hero”.
“Black Adam” is an entertaining comic book film full of fun, thrills, world building, and a plethora of high octane action that drives the film’s narrative. This movie takes its time kicking into high gear as we first receive an explanation of the film’s backstory and current day premise by way of the people of Kahndaq. However, once Black Adam is summoned, the pacing of the film quickly changes as we immediately observe the unyielding & relentless power he possesses, receive our introduction to the JSA (Justice Society of America), and then bear witness to non-stop, super powered action sequences from beginning to end.
In terms of tone, this is not a film that’s as stylish or cerebral as DC’s previous cinematic offering this year, “The Batman”. Instead, “Black Adam” lives up to being exactly what it has been marketed as in its trailers: A straight forward, Superhero action film that commits to idea of spectacle, thrills, and all out action from some of DC’s mightiest characters.
Speaking of action, almost all of the action sequences in “Black Adam” lean heavily into the fantastical & epic scale imagery you would come to expect based on the nature of these characters. Many of the thrilling scenes showcase awesome effects overseen by WETA and Scanline VFX, two effects houses often used by Director Zack Snyder on his previous action based films for Warner Brothers. As the centerpiece of the film, the character “Black Adam” is immensely powerful as proven during his many scenes of flight, kinetic combat, or fury-induced destruction. In fact, much of the action involving Black Adam is what pushes the film’s PG-13 rating to the limit as we see him dispatching of his enemies in a variety of brutal & sinister ways.
In terms of casting, Dwayne Johnson is perfect in the role of Black Adam as we witness him easily tap back into his heel persona that initially captivated fans during his pro wrestling days. In the film, Johnson is able to successfully walk the fine line of portraying the character with relentless sensibilities but at the same time, balancing him with his own abstract view on the concept of justice.
The casting of the JSA as well as key characters from the city of Kahndaq were also handled well as these particular actors all flesh out the film in an impactful way. Aldis Hodge, who is a scene stealer, has a commanding presence as “Hawkman”, the leader of the JSA that also engages in several of the film’s notable action sequences. Equally as captivating is Pierce Brosnan as “Dr. Fate”, the elder statesman of the group whose mystical power & abilities are incredible to behold.
Additionally, both Noah Centineo (“Atom Smasher”) and Quintessa Swindell (“Cyclone”) are fine in their roles and balance out the JSA as the younger members who are still maturing. Lastly, Sarah Shahi (“Adrianna Tomez”), Bohdi Sabongui (“Amon Tomez”), and Mohammed Amer (“Karim”) all portray citizens of Kahndaq who provide both sentimental and humorous moments throughout the film.
For all of the entertaining qualities I really enjoyed about “Black Adam”, there are a few aspects of the film that I think hold it back from achieving its full potential. Because of the brisk two hour runtime, I think some of the characters, in particular the villain, felt very underdeveloped and could have used more fleshing out and characterization. Additionally, I thought the storytelling could have been more polished as there are some narrative choices in the film’s structure via flashbacks and narration that could have been smoother.
Lastly, there were some thematic & visual elements in the huge third act finale that I wish were tightened up a bit more in the film’s post production process. All that being said, despite not being a perfect film, I still found “Black Adam to be very entertaining and a rousing cinematic introduction to the character that features some truly amazing action scenes throughout its swift runtime.
While watching the movie, I got the sense that the team behind “Black Adam” knew exactly the type of film they wanted to make and devoted themselves to capturing the type of spectacle that accentuates the power and abilities of these mighty Superheroes. “Black Adam” doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel and doesent have the deepest, most emotionally resonant storytelling or villians you’ll see from a film of this genre. However, what it does do is embrace a more simplistic, tried, true and conventional formula of being an adrenaline charged crowd pleaser that is sure to entertain with its action driven narrative.
With solid direction from Jaume Collet-Serra (“Jungle Cruise”), beautiful cinematography from Lawrence Sher (“Joker”), and an excellent score by Lorne Balfe (“Mission Impossible: Fallout”), “Black Adam” looks great, sounds great and feels like the large scale Superhero film that Dwyane Johnson intended it to be. Despite the film’s issues with certain aspects of storytelling, character development, and editing, “Black Adam” is still a good superhero film that entertains thanks to its great production values, stunning visual effects and laser sharp focus on well-crafted action sequences.
For fans of both action and comic book films, I definitely recommend checking this out on the biggest screen possible when it releases on October 21st. Also, as you may have heard by now, you’ll definitely want to stick around for the film’s post credit scene. There is a HUGE surprise that must be seen that will leave fans, especially DC fans, EXTREMELY happy. 🙂 Enjoy!